• The Associated Press


Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will exhibit at this month’s Paris air show a cabin mockup of a passenger jet it is developing, company officials said Monday.

The Tokyo-based manufacturer wants to gauge interest for the proposed airliner, which would have around 90 seats and would be Japan’s first commercial jet in decades, project general manager Masakazu Niwa said.

“This will be a cutting-edge small jet that combines top-class economy with outstanding cabin comfort,” Niwa said at a news conference.

Demand for smaller, 60- to 100-seat jetliners is expected to rise over the next 20 years in regional markets, he said. The new jet is aimed at providing carriers with a low-maintenance, fuel-efficient product that can be operated profitably.

The project would be Japan’s first venture into the potentially lucrative commercial jetliner market, which is controlled mostly by U.S.-based Boeing Co. and Europe’s Airbus.

The envisioned airliner would come in 70-seat and 90-seat configurations, with the goal of entering service in 2012, Niwa said. Mitsubishi Heavy’s main target markets are North America, Europe and Japan. “Around 20 to 30 airlines” have already expressed some interest in the proposed jet, he added.

Japan has no homegrown large-scale aircraft maker, although manufacturers here have been supplying Boeing with parts for decades.

The jetliner would aim to be at least 20 percent more fuel efficient than competing aircraft due to the extensive use of light composite materials in the airframe and a new engine design, according to project manager Junichi Miyakawa.

Engine design proposals have been solicited from aerospace manufacturer General Electric Aviation and aircraft engine makers Pratt and Whitney of the U.S. and Britain’s Rolls-Royce PLC, he said.

Mitsubishi Heavy plans to decide on the project’s viability by the end of next March, Niwa said. In addition to market interest, the company needs to assess the sales network that would be required and evaluate the technologies to be used, he said.

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